Letters - June 3: A lone soldier replies

Being a combat fighter and a lone soldier is one of the most difficult and challenging things a youth can go through.

A lone soldier replies
Sir, –I really liked “Alone, in uniform, together” (Cover, May 20) and thought it was really well written. But it didn’t do justice to the Michael Levin Memorial Center for Lone Soldiers – you focused on the Friday night dinners that happen once a month at the Great Synagogue, which is just a small part of the numerous activities and services the Jerusalem center provides.
I came here to volunteer for the army. I didn’t have any family in Israel or any friends on whom I could fall back for help.
Upon my arrival in Israel, the center invited me to a pre-army seminar that supplied me with a vault of valuable information before my draft. It also helped me locate an apartment that was not only in a great location, but affordable in light of the meager army salaries. The center supplied me with a bed, washing machine, pots, pans, dishes, a table and chairs along with a couch and a TV.
The center also made sure I was taken care of for Shabbat meals, was an important source of advice throughout my military service, and hosted many social events where I met other lone soldiers who experienced many of the same difficulties I was going through.
Serving in the army is never an easy thing, and being a combat fighter is even harder. But being a combat fighter and a lone soldier is one of the most difficult and challenging things a youth can go through. The staff and volunteers of the center were there for me day and night to help me and support me every step of the way.
Upon finishing my service in the IDF three months ago, I wanted to give something back to the center. My way has been to volunteer there and help the next generation of lone soldiers by helping them with the problems that the more than 5,700 lone soldiers currently in the army face on a day-to-day basis. But as the number of lone soldiers continues to climb, it is becoming more and more difficult to assist these brave individuals.
The needs of lone soldiers and of the Michael Levin Memorial Center should not be kept secret. The center needs everything, from more tutors and advisers to physical space for counseling and sleeping, and even a permanent moving truck.
Those interested in helping should come to the center at Rehov Keren Hayesod 25, Jerusalem, write to sara@lonesoldiercenter.com, or go to www.lonesoldiercenter.com for more information.
The writer notes: This letter included input and support from the following former lone soldiers: Hadar Markus, Mara Hershkovitz, Yedidiya Kennard, Dov Weller, Joseph Landsberg, Jake Flaster, Gosha Yushtein, Danna Yatziv, Katie McCants, Ari Kalker and Tova Esserman.
JAACI fights back
Sir, – As representatives of the Jewish American Affairs Committee of Indiana (JAACI), we wish to respond to the baseless and malicious accusations leveled in these pages (“JCRCs behind Israel,” Letters, May 20) by members of the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) against us and columnist Jonathan Rosenblum, who profiled our organization in his May 6 column (“Is Israel dividing American Jewry?,” Think Again).
• Accusation 1: The letter writers claim the JAACI “falsely” accused the JCRC of excluding the critical second goal (“To dedicate ourselves to the safety and security of the state of Israel”) of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), its national parent organization, from its own online mission statement. This is a bizarre accusation, since individuals with Internet access can see that we are absolutely right.
• Accusation 2: The writers say we claimed that the JCRC focuses on domestic issues. Oddly, they go on to admit that we were right, though in point of fact our specific argument was that it advocates solely for liberal positions to the exclusion of issues of primary importance to Israel and the Jewish people.
• Accusation 3: The letter writers accuse the JAACI of making the “utterly false” charge that the JCRC’s Israel programming included “pro-Palestinian voices to maintain balance.” In this case, the JCRC twisted our words when we accurately stated that some of its members felt that including pro-Palestinian perspectives would make pro-Israel positions more palatable to outside audiences. Tellingly, in 2010 the JCRC was “honored” (its own description) to accept the Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed Interfaith Excellence Award, named after one of the founders of the Islamic Society of North America, a Muslim Brotherhood front group, and someone who only recently defended the arch anti-Semite Yusuf Al- Qaradawi’s diatribe against Israel in Egypt’s Tahrir Square.
Accusation 4: Here the writers criticize Rosenblum for saying the JAACI sponsored the first pro-Israel resolution to pass in the Indiana state legislature, arguing that the JCRC helped pass an earlier one. But our claim, which Rosenblum was referring to, stated that ours had been the first “that expresses full support for Israel without directly addressing the Arab/Palestinian- Israeli conflict.” We stand by this statement. Moreover, while the JCRC’s resolution was written in 2003 during a period of horrific anti-Israel violence, instead of fiercely supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against such barbarism it focused almost entirely on blandly highlighting Israel’s birthday and democratic process. As Rosenblum describes, this is exactly the type of passive pro-Israel advocacy many Jews are fed up with.
Despite their labeling us a “rogue group with few followers,” JAACI is now the largest pro-Israel and pro-Jewish group based in Indiana, with the great majority of synagogues in Indianapolis supporting our cause. Unsurprisingly, it is the JCRC that now finds itself increasingly isolated.
The writers are president and a member of the board, respectively, of the JAACI
Sir, – These are difficult times for Israel and Israel advocacy. AIPAC, once the undisputed political representative of America’s pro-Israel community, has been countered in recent years by J Street, which claims to be the home for pro-Israel Jews who are also pro-peace – as if AIPAC and the others were not – while it works to undermine the positions of Israel’s elected government.
Jonathan Rosenblum may have missed some details of two controversial JCRC programs, one in Philadelphia and one in Indianapolis. But the letters from the leadership of these bodies illustrate the very divisiveness he describes.
All of us – especially those who are supposed to be bringing us together – need to step back and save the heated rhetoric for the truly bad guys, of which, unfortunately, there is no lack.
Sir, – Sarah Honig, in “A revanchist cause called Nakba” (Another Tack, May 2), wrote with her usual clarity and vision and put to rest the nonsense of the so-called Arab refugees. But what I would like to dwell on is the last paragraph:
“That’s why back in 1949 after the first outcry to turn back the clock’s hands and repatriate hostile Arabs inside minuscule Israel, David Ben-Gurion determined that ‘just as it is impossible to resurrect 6,000 of our finest sons and daughters who fell in the War of Independence which the Arabs forced upon us; or heal the thousands maimed in that same Arab onslaught; or bring back the millions who could have been saved from the Holocaust had the Arabs not barred their entry to Eretz Yisrael; or breathe life into all those they massacred before 1948 – so it is impossible for those so-called Arab refugees to demand the right to return as if nothing had happened.’”
I would further add: And so it is impossible for Israel to give up any parts of the land recaptured in wars forced upon us by the Arabs, not least because this land has always belonged to the Jewish people and we are under no obligation, indeed have no right, to give it away, most especially to our enemies who hate us with such passion and venom. After all, who would bring into their family home those known to want only to kill and destroy? Surely, only the insane.
One can only hope that there are enough sane people in the Knesset to curtail the fanciful longings of Prime Minister Netanyahu for two states – one for us and one for the murderers of so many thousands of our men, women, children and babies.